Whew. What a year. Thank goodness it’s over and thank the people who got us through it. Certainly, 2011 proved hard on the nerves. The economy sputtered and groaned.
The signs of distress mounted on every side: The jobless rate remained stuck at 10 percent, the poverty rate among Payson school children soared, the pleas for help from the food banks piled up, the politicians dithered and bickered, the class sizes rose inexorably, the empty storefronts multiplied.
In short, pessimists had a field day all year long.
Still. Thinking back, our troubles don’t seem like the most important thing that happened this year.
You do not have to look far to change your point of view in the midst of trouble here in Rim Country.
Just look at the front page — at the chart that tallies the progress of the third annual community food drive. Rim Country residents have contributed so generously to the food drive this year that organizers have raised the goal. Good thing, too, since Valley food banks no longer have extra to share.
Then check some of the year-end headlines.
To whit: The Blue Ridge pipeline cleared its final Forest Service review, which means construction will start on the $34 million project in the spring. As a result, Rim Country will become one of the few communities in Arizona with enough water to sustain its long-term plans.
The remarkable achievement came as a result of 20 years of effort by people with the vision and the patience to bring a dream to fruition. It is a reminder every time we turn on the tap of what we owe to people who have worked on our behalf so patiently and persistently.
Moreover, it now appears that the Rim Country Educational Alliance will also break ground this spring on the first phase of a four-year college campus in Payson. This project will not only secure a rich future for our children, but it will lay a new cornerstone for a diverse, recession-resistant economy in Rim Country.
We could go on.
For every challenge, Rim Country has been blessed with someone willing to make the sacrifices and put in the work to find a solution.
We have been tested — and we have not only survived, but continued to build the future. The folks who staged the first rodeo, built the first sawmill, planted the first unlikely crop had a lot of bad years. But every time they got thrown into the mud, they got up with a lopsided grin, dusted themselves off and got back in the saddle.
So we think that they’d be proud of us this year.
Tonto Creek flood work touched by irony
Gila County has been struggling valiantly to serve the needs of homeowners menaced by the floods of Tonto Creek.
The county has made persistent and laudable efforts to qualify for federal money to build an all-weather crossing to protect the lives and property of nearly 1,000 people who live on the east side of the creek. Hopefully, those long, patient efforts will meet with success.
In the meantime, the county has also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain and rebuild the levees and keep the channel cleared of debris.
This week, prison work crews went to work removing logs and brush tangles that can, in a flood, cause the water to jump the channel and menace homes. Clearly, the situation remains frightening for many homeowners — and we entirely understand the fear and anger many have expressed. The repair work has proceeded with frustrating slowness, both for lack of funding and out of deference to critters like the endangered Willow Flycatcher, who nest in the thickets in and along the channel.
Then again, we’re also aware of the uncomfortable ironies and contradictions of the situation.
For starters, the county created the dilemma by approving housing on the far side of a flood-prone river channel. Moreover, inadequate county building codes let people build their houses in the floodplain.
So now homeowners and the county find themselves at the mercy of the federal government when it comes to both maintaining the channel and building the bridge.
Of course, you could also cite the need for this life-saving, economy-bolstering infrastructure as precisely the way that the federal government ought to act to bolster the economy in such troubled times. Not only will these public works save lives, but they’ll make it possible to develop the tourist economy along a little-visited stretch of Roosevelt Lake. So we feel compelled to applaud the county, comfort the homeowners — and thank the federal government all at the same time.